Did you know the International Space Station reached its 10th year in orbit in November 2008? This space laboratory continues to be built and staffed by astronauts from at least 16 different nations. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of it the next time it passes over your location, there are a couple of tools you’ll want to use.
To see the ISS in the sky, go to the NASA tracking site at spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/tracking/. On the menu bar across the top, roll your cursor over "Realtime Data," and click "Sighting Opportunities." In the box on the left labeled "Quick and Easy Sightings by City," enter your country and then click your state and town, and you'll get the coordinates and dates when the ISS will pass by. For help with how to interpret the coordinates, go back to "Realtime Data" and "Sighting Opportunities" on the menu bar, and you'll see "Sighting Help" under where you entered your state and city.
Another method for sighting the ISS is to go to "Realtime Data," click "Sighting Opportunities," go to the yellow box in the center labeled "SkyWatch 2.0" and click "Start Applet." Enter your ZIP code and hit "Enter," or click the map until you reach your location. Select "Next Sighting" at the bottom, and the applet will calculate the next time you can see the space station with the naked eye from where you are. Click the "SkyTrack" button on the bottom, and you'll get a view of the constellations with the space station's track across the sky. You can move the sky view around with the arrows and plus and minus buttons on the top left to help you get oriented to the sky.
If you can identify one constellation such as Orion or the Big Dipper, you can figure out what direction to look until you get a good idea where the space station will appear. If you need a little help, go to Astroviewer.com. Enter your city and go to "Current Night Sky," and it will show you what the night sky currently looks like in your location, with constellations marked. If you can see what constellation or stars the ISS will pass by on the NASA map and identify those items in the sky, you can see the ISS when it comes by.
If it is cloudy out one night, you can go back to the "Next Sighting" button, and you'll get the next day's track, and you can then click "SkyTrack" and get the next day's track map. If you don't have a good view or the track is currently below the horizon, try to find a place where you can get up higher and get less light pollution for a future pass.